When to book for the best budget travel deals


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It may come as a surprise, but when adjusted for inflation, flights are a lot cheaper than they were in the so-called Golden Age of travel in the 50s and 60s. Plus, thanks to all of the tools available online, it’s easier than ever to home in on the best budget travel deals. Still, your traveling costs can always be lower than you first find.

Keeping an eye out for package deals and even package deals sales events around the year can be a great way to go if you haven’t got a particular destination or time frame for your holiday. For most, though, it’s about finding the best price for a set window, and for that, there are a few key considerations for when to book to get the best deals.

Last minute flight, here I am!

Tickets that are cheap all year around

While it’s certainly playing with fire to an extent, the only clear-cut way to get cheap flight tickets and budget travel deals any time of the year is with last-minute deals. These tickets are the ones that airlines really want to sell to fill up their planes and make each trip as profitable as possible, and they all get funneled onto this one platform.

While the term “last-minute deals” sounds like you’re booking a flight that’s taking off within a matter of hours, the flight dates tied to the budget travel deals aren’t all that last-minute, giving you ample time to plan the other side of the flight.

If you check out the stack of last-minute flight options on any given day, you’ll see that most flights are setting off over the next three, four, five, or even six days. Best of all, the tickets are cheap and go to top destinations like Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles. Domestic tickets across the US go for as little as $20 or up to $150 for longer hauls.

Most research finds that there isn’t a set the best day to book as there’s somewhat of a moving target for the day of the week with lower prices. This can be based on the season, the demand, or even the distance of the flight that you aim to get on. If you can be a bit flexible with your dates, and perhaps the destination, last-minute is the way to go.

The best view after scoring the perfect flight deal.

General rule of thumb for booking

More often than not, the general wisdom – putting old wives’ tales of set days to one side – is that you should book your flights one month in advance for domestic trips or two months ahead of time if you’re going international. So, for a flight like Atlanta to Miami, start your search six weeks beforehand and grab the lowest ticket price within the first two weeks.

If you’ll be jetting off to Thailand to visit the home of expats and digital nomads in Chiang Mai from North America or Europe, start searching three months in advance. Within that first month, get the tickets that look to be the cheapest within your search window.

These are general rules to essentially guarantee that you’ll be able to fly out on the dates that you have planned. If you’re going during peak windows, such as the summer holidays or around Christmas, extend your search window a little bit further.

Within these timeframes for your flight, you can then look for flight tickets that are generally cheaper compared to most of the year. From the US, any tickets to Asia that are below $540 are good value, and to the Caribbean, anything under $300 is quite low. Catching a flight to Europe? If it’s less than $500, it’s probably a budget deal.

Shoulder seasons usually mean fewer travelers and better travel deals.

Seasons swing the ticket prices

One of the best-known aspects of trying to get the best budget travel deals is that the seasons make a huge difference. This can be from the viewpoint of off-peak and peak seasons or the four seasons of the year. Everyone knows that July and August tend to be the most expensive for traveling to sunny destinations with beaches and shimmering blue waters.

Outside of the middle of December to early January, winter flights can be particularly cheap, but your planned destination will matter more for this. Should you want to go to the world’s happiest country, Finland, their very cold winters may not appeal to you for a holiday. Then again, sleeping in a glass igloo in the snow might.

In the US, spring will often be another rather expensive time for travel, and almost on par with the summer. However, for the rest of the world, spring can be quite cheap as the usual holiday season, the summer, is when airlines and hotels ramp up prices.

Overall, those who want a budget holiday should look to the autumn months, from around the middle of September through to early November. Within the US, the exception here is the Thanksgiving bracket, but that’s only a consideration for those traveling between the states.

Being flexible is the first step in finding travel deals.

Price isn’t always set

With everything being sold online, airlines and travel companies can apply algorithms to ensure that ticket prices adjust automatically to match or better the competition at any given time. It’s a similar process that Amazon deploys to either have the lowest prices or make the most of scarcity and pump up prices significantly.

As a result, generally speaking, a set day for the cheapest flight tickets has been axed – if it ever existed in the first place. Instead, it’s more like there’s an ever-moving cheapest day of the week, but it’s always rather tough to call which day it will be. Still, there is the commonsense rule of flight days every week.

Due to the work week that’s set for the majority of people, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday flights tend to be a fair bit cheaper than those that set off on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The savings are a bit less for international flights compared to domestic, but there are still savings to be made by picking early weekdays over the weekend.

If you want the best budget travel deals, it’s good to be flexible and proactive, but you’ll often find that the lowest prices are listed as last-minute flights.